The Queen Is Dead Trees

Morrissey’s autobiography is published. I duly buy my copy from Gay’s The Word in Marchmont Street.

It certainly deserves to filed alongside the works of Ronald Firbank, Saki and EF Benson; much of it is baroque, haughty camp.

I’m a fan in a restrained, not-queuing-up-overnight sort of a way, enough to know he’s been threatening the book’s appearance for years,  much like Kevin Shields did with talk of a new My Bloody Valentine album. Both these 80s indie veterans finally made good on their promises this year (something astrological about 2013?), and both managed to do so without sending out early press copies or agreeing to promotional interviews. Few magazines, chat shows and radio shows would have said no to a new Morrissey interview plugging the book, yet his only concession appears to have been a single signing appearance in a bookshop in Gothenberg. Gothenberg has a reputation as the Manchester of Sweden, in terms of its passionate love of alternative music. I’ve performed in the city a few times myself, both with Fosca and with Spearmint. In the book, Morrissey returns the compliment: ‘Sweden always feels like a reward… It is warming to be a part of Göteborg life… Nothing but promise erupts from everywhere in Sweden, and the life-giving enthusiasm of the audience feeds me.

So Morrissey does no interviews, and I can’t say I blame him. The book itself is full of incidences, after all, where journalists have twisted his words against him – sometimes to libellous effect. But the British media, like nature, abhors a vacuum, so there’s been a slew of comment pieces – including several before the book was even out, built on sheer speculation about what the book might contain. In this way, Morrissey is like a member of the royal family he so despises: I couldn’t help thinking of the coverage of Kate Middleton, hacks waiting for her to give birth, filling up time and space that could have been gone to actual facts, with reams of unnecessary, un-asked for, and utterly unqualified comment.

The only fact that was known about the Moz book was that it would be a Penguin Classic, the result of a jokey wish the singer made in a Radio 4 interview a few years ago. Penguin Books were, it turns out, happy to indulge him in this piece of wry and knowing packaging, and good for them.

It should go without saying – but it turns out it doesn’t – that it’s not a proper Penguin Classic, not least because it lacks the usual scholarly annotations and critical introduction and Note On The Text and so on. The back cover blurb is also in a different typeface to the usual PC one, thus announcing the Moz book as a separate animal in its own right, if only people would pick it up to see.

Aesthetic jokes aside, Penguin has often played fast and loose with what counts as a ‘classic’ in their eyes as it is. They ditched the date barrier that roughly kept the Classic Classics pre-1918 and the Modern Classics post-1918 long ago. It’s not even the first time a rock star still alive in 2013 has had their words published by the imprint. Bob Dylan’s lyrics can be found in The Portable Beat Reader. 

Actually, Morrissey constantly quotes his own lyrics in his book too.

But predictably, several commentators have insisted that Penguin has now ‘damaged’ its Classics line’s reputation. Such writers are only damaging their own reputation. If anything, Penguin has enhanced its brand further, by showing it has a sense of humour and a respect for wit. Wit is, after all, the brevity of the soul. I also salute Penguin for allowing a high profile book’s first edition to come out as an affordable, easy-to-recycle £8.99 paperback rather than a £19.99 resources-guzzling hardback (the publishing ‘two tier’ system is a bete noire of mine).

Two favourite revelations in the book. One is that Morrissey didn’t think ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ was good enough for The Queen Is Dead. Mr Marr won him over. The other is that Peter Wyngarde always answers the phone with the phrase ‘There you are!’

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Dandies In An Underworld

Friday 11th October 2013. A rainy afternoon spent in Piccadilly with Ray Frensham, fellow subject of the book I Am Dandy and author of Teach Yourself Screenwriting. He takes me for lunch at Brasserie Zedel in Sherwood Street. Once the Atlantic Bar, it’s now a rather splendid and ornate place to meet friends for a meal. Like the Wolseley, it’s actually possible to eat there relatively cheaply if one chooses carefully. You forget it’s in a basement somewhere under Regent Street – the ceiling is so high and the decor so gilded that it manages to feel downright airy.

Mr Frensham is full of entertaining anecdotes, and talks about how his romantic life became more fun after he hit 50 rather than before. The key ingredient being the sense of finally being at home in one’s skin. I certainly find that reassuring. We mooch around Hatchard’s bookshop afterwards, and take photos of each other with the dandy book. Hatchard’s has quite a few copies, filed under Fashion.  I’ve since re-bleached my hair so it’s now a little less yellow. Not keen on resembling a sexually confused Eminem.




There’s also a new blog post about the book at the website for Bergdorf Goodman, the New York department store. I am featured as an example of The Dandy As Decadent, with an ‘under-worldly style’.

Mr Frensham tells me that his appearance in the book has already led to offers for modelling suits and so forth.  I haven’t heard anything myself – yet. It would obviously be nice if something came of appearing in either that or in the big new diary book (A London Year).

But then, it’s just nice to be included for something I’m happy to be included for. As I think it says on the gates of the Underworld.

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Among The Diarists

Tuesday 8th October. To Westminster Reference Library for the launch of A London Year, edited by Nick Rennison and Travis Elborough. It’s a large, beautifully designed, greenish-blue hardback, and collects a variety of London-themed excerpts from real life diaries, arranged so that each day of the year is represented by at least one entry. The book is currently on display in every London bookshop I’ve been wandering into of late. There’s a whole table of them at Waterstones Piccadilly, right near the entrance.

I’m flattered to see my own diary is in the book, eleven excerpts of it, alongside the journals of pretty much everyone I can think of who fits the brief: Pepys, Swift, Keats, Dickens, Woolf, Van Gogh, George Eliot, Queen Victoria, John Betjeman, Tony Benn, Alan Bennett, Derek Jarman, Michael Palin, Brian Eno and Evelyn Waugh.

Clayton Littlewood is also in there, with excerpts from Dirty White Boy and Goodbye to Soho. He’s the only other diarist in the book who’s at the event, though the stars of the show are really Mr Rennison and Mr Elborough. Aside from giving permission, I had no input in the selection. So until I saw a finished copy I didn’t know which entries of mine they were going to use, or that they’d use quite so many. It’s been a pleasant surprise.

At the event, Helen Gordon reads a typically ribald 1940s entry by Joan Wyndham. Ms Gordon had a novel out with Penguin recently (Landfall), and I’m reminded that she’s a good example of a Well Dressed Contemporary Novelist, reading in Jazz Age-style pleated chiffon trousers. Also present are Bill & Alex Mayor, Ms Lettie, Tim B, Andrew Martin, Paul Kelly, Debsey Wykes, Bob Stanley (currently in the middle of promoting his own massive book, Yeah Yeah Yeah, about the history of pop), Emily Bick, and a certain actor who I think I last saw several lifetimes ago, at Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.

Afterwards I repair with a few of the gathering to the rather cosy Tom Cribb pub in Panton Street, and stay far too late and drink far too much. Chat with Paul Kelly about the political side of his London films made with Saint Etienne (finally out on DVD as A London Trilogy) : he compares his approach with the records of The Specials – the political message is there if you look for it, but the apolitical side – the art for art’s sake side, I guess – must always come first.

london year

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Turning Off The Tap

Quick notice for UK readers.

If you think the UK law should be changed to allow gay couples to marry, please say so in the consultation at

It’s essentially a questionnaire that takes about two minutes to click through. But the government will use the results, so it’s important.

What interests me in particular is that the current Home Secretary, the right wing Theresa May, is one of the pro-gay marriage campaigners. In the past she voted against equalising the ages of consent for gay people, and also voted against the repealing of the anti-gay Clause 28. But people change, and times change. There’s much about the current lot in power that worries me but this is at least one commendable state of affairs.


‘What a disgraceful lapse! Nothing added to my disquisition, and life allowed to waste like a tap left running. Eleven days unrecorded.’ – Virginia Woolf, from her diaries.

This appropriate quote managed to pop up in two very different books I’ve been reading: Alexandra Harris’s short biography of Ms Woolf, and Alison Bechdel’s comic book memoir Are You My Mother? 

Since my exam on May 22nd, which ended my first year as a born-again student, I’ve found myself wanting to get more books read. It’s the Deathbed Regrets test again: I imagine myself suddenly on my deathbed and think ‘if life ended now, what would I most regret not having done?’.

I never think, ‘I wish I’d read more newspapers and magazines.’

I never think, ‘I wish I’d spent more time on Twitter and Facebook.’

And I never think, ‘I wish I’d read more comments left underneath articles on the Internet.’

All of which I fear I’ve been doing too much of over the past year or so. What I do think is, ‘I wish I’d read more books’.  Particularly with the English Lit degree; it seems hypocritical to spend time reading ephemeral stuff online that I could have used on a book.  And I’m not convinced I even enjoy being on Twitter for very long or that I’m good at it. So I’ve been setting myself a goal of reading at least 150 pages of a book a day. For a dyspraxic reader like myself, that’s achievable. It might also help to increase my reading speed.

Another rule I’ve set myself is ‘one book at a time’ – no double-booking. I know many people read several books at once, but in my case it just leads to books not being finished.

I’m also trying to balance set texts for next year’s course with books for pleasure, mixing prose with comic books, fiction with non-fiction, favourite authors with unfamiliar ones, and classics with brand new releases. And it really works: the variety makes all the difference.

So since May 22nd, here’s what I’ve read, in order, with links to my reviews on the GoodReads website (a kind of non-Amazon global book group, which if nothing else helps to remind you what you’ve read).

Goodbye To Soho by Clayton Littlewood (memoir)
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams (novel)
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (novel)
Virginia Woolf by Alexandra Harris (biography)
Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel (comic book memoir)
The Sense Of An Ending by Julian Barnes (novel)

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Among The Dead Trees

Final day of revision. Birkbeck Library today is packed with  students, all in the same boat. It’s the height of exam season, and it can be hard to find a seat in the library, even at 8pm in the evening. Torrington Square is full of red-trousered boys (seems to be the fashion) with armfuls of books.

Lots of  ‘Good luck!’

or, later on in the day:  ‘I can’t believe that question…’

And it still is real books they carry about the campus, along with their laptops. The trolleys for books to be re-shelved look like they’ve been there pre-internet, and they’re still under heavy use.  I think one reason is that even though a lot of research can now be done online, there’s still plenty of academic texts that just aren’t available digitally, at least not for free. It can also be healthier to work from a book alongside a laptop, if only to give the eyes a break from the screen. The classes themselves are still paper-heavy, too, with A4 ‘hand-outs’ given out at most lectures and seminars. I’ve seen some students do their lecture notetaking on iPads and netbooks, but the majority scribble away with pen or pencil.

Today might be a watershed for the history of paper books in Britain, in fact, as Waterstones have announced they’ll be selling Kindle e-books in their shops. Quite how this will work will be interesting (special machines in-store?), but it’s an inevitable step, now that e-books have started to take off. To be able to buy Kindle books without having to give money to the tax-avoiding giant that is Amazon can only be an good thing.

Here’s an interesting article by the author Linda Grant, in favour of Kindles as a device, but uneasy about letting Amazon hog the market. She makes the point that books are mainly written on screens now, so why is it so strange to want to read them on screens too?


My exam is tomorrow morning at 10am. The last time I took an exam, Margaret Thatcher was in power.

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Maundy Mopping-Up

I’m spending Easter writing essays for college and hoping a rather painful stomach ache goes away. Think it’s a return of the dreaded IBS, made worse by stress over the essays. Am hitting the peppermint capsules and hoping for the best.

Recent outings…

Saturday 31 March was another stint of DJ-ing for the Last Tuesday Society, at the Adam Street club off the Strand. After I’d finished I stuck around and caught a performance by an excellent African band, Kasai Masai. Their giddy, hypnotic music  fitted the atmosphere perfectly.

Sunday: tea in Highgate with Ella Lucas, then we both wandered into town, taking in the National Portrait Gallery and South Bank. I’d been reading Virginia Woolf – Icon by Brenda Silver (1999), which claimed Ms Woolf’s photo (this one) was the best selling postcard in the NPG shop. I ask the NPG staff whose postcard sells the most today. They’re not sure, but reckon it to be between Kate Moss, Prince William & Prince Harry, the Queen by Warhol, Lily Cole, and Darcey Bussell. Ms Woolf’s face still does well though – a Woolf-branded notebook has sold out.

Monday last was the launch of Richard King’s book about the story of British indie labels, How Soon Is Now. I was kindly invited by Richard himself, and I asked my old bandmate Simon Kehoe along (from the first Orlando line-up), seeing as he’d just moved to London and was looking for things to go to. Turns out Simon had been invited too –  he and Richard were once in the Bristol band Teenagers In Trouble during the 90s. Simon also brought another bandmate along, Kevin from The Foaming Beauties, whom I met for the first time. So at some point Simon managed to assemble representatives of all his past bands in the same room – and got a photo of all of us too.

Simon, Kevin and myself started the evening in Soho with drinks at the French House and dinner at the Stockpot (a deliberate attempt to have an Old Soho evening), before going on to the launch event at the Social in Fitzrovia. The launch included Bob Stanley DJ-ing, a chat about the nature of indie music between Messrs King and Stanley with Owen Hatherley, and a short but utterly fantastic acoustic set by Edwyn Collins, backed by James Walbourne and Andy Hackett. They performed dazzling versions of ‘Falling And Laughing’, ‘Rip It Up’, ‘A Girl Like You’ and ‘Blueboy’.

Chatted to Grace Maxwell (Edwyn Collins’s partner, whom I’ve met before when my brother Tom was playing for Edwyn) and Jeanette Lee (from Rough Trade, who signed Orlando to Warners, and was once in PiL). Bought a copy of the book from a lady who later turned out to be Louise Brealey, the actress who plays Molly From The Morgue on Sherlock. Just as well I didn’t realise this at the time, as I’d downed rather a lot of wine by this point and had reached that stage of solipsistic drunkenness which is just about acceptable for friends, but deeply tiresome for strangers. I realise now I must have annoyed Lee Brackstone from Faber Books too, which I’m rather shamefaced about (sorry, Mr B). Still, it was a rare event; a class reunion of a kind, and a celebration of past lives and passions.

Tom is currently playing guitar for Adam Ant in Australia (photo of him onstage in Perth here). So proud of him.


Some new works by other people worthy of greater exposure:

New albums:

CN Lester – Ashes (available here).
Stunning debut collection of haunting, late-night torch songs. I first saw the androgynous CN play at a Transgender Day Of Remembrance service, and am so pleased they’ve released  an album. Here’s to many more.

The Monochrome Set – Platinum Coils. (available here)
An unexpected, wonderful surprise; a brand new CD by the MS, their first since the mid 90s. Arch, crooning, twangy guitar pop, sounding just as fresh as their late 70s and early 80s records.

New books:

Richard King – How Soon is Now? The Madmen and Mavericks Who Made Independent Music 1975-2005. (Richard has a blog here)
As bought at the above launch. Satisfyingly doorstop-sized, engrossing account of the history of labels like Mute, Factory, Creation and Rough Trade. Focuses on tales of music and money (the lack of it, the making of it, the wasting of it) and the way indie labels and artists took on the mainstream, not always certain of what they were doing. The notorious appearance of the KLF at the Brit Awards being a case in point.

Jen Campbell – Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops (Jen’s blog is here). Jen C works at Ripping Yarns, the used and antiquarian bookshop down the road from me in Highgate. The book collects some of the strange requests and utterations that she’s heard, illustrated with line drawings which are also rather weird, in a sweet sort of way.

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“Renowned Diarist Dickon Edwards…”

Another photo from the Kim Cunningham shoot:

May 2011. Pond Square, Highgate.

Golders Green in the heat. Tempted to go without my jacket, but here – even at 30 degrees C – one sees the district’s famous community of orthodox Jewish men still in their full ensembles: black suits, hats, even coats. I find myself sharing their unspoken message. To strip down would be a let down. Dandyism is a kind of faith, too.

(Actually, as this day goes on I notice a few pious gentlemen just wearing waistcoats, or besuited but with shirts unbuttoned or untucked. But there’s still one or two in coats.)

Today on Golders Green Road: I see my first kosher ice cream van. Back among the Highgate heathens tomorrow, though.


Not much luck with attempts to secure employment. Am collecting rejection emails. One kind friend even pulled strings to get me an interview – customer service at PRS – and I went along and did my best with but no success. I didn’t really want the job as such, though,  just the money, and I suspect that showed in the interview. Feigning enthusiasm for wage slavery isn’t so easy after one reaches a certain age. Questions about what one is actually living for take over. Not in the teenage angst sense, but in the life lived sense. Justified world-weariness. Or rather, world-of-work-weariness.

I’m now past worrying about it, though. At the age of nearly 40 one’s priorities naturally regroup, and things like happiness and mental health count more than ever. The alibi “well at least I’m young, I’ll go onto something better”  has long since expired.

This reluctance is not through wanting a life of pure selfish hedonism, mind. I instinctively feel the need to be of use to this world, just not doing something where I feel disastrously… miscast. I’m hoping something will turn up soon.

In the meantime, something I very much do want to do is to finally get a degree. To see if I’m of use in that respect at least – proving that I have a brain after all (unemployment makes one feel so… thick), and making a contribution to the world of academe. My BA in English Lit at Birkbeck starts in October, and I’m now starting to read text books and set texts for the first time since school.

Quite intrigued that the course includes a seminar on the St Etienne film, Finisterre, as part of a module about London-themed literature and films. Other set texts for Autumn include Oliver Twist, Mrs Dalloway, Jekyll & Hyde, and Ian McEwan’s Saturday.

Today I’ve been reading something very much not on the course list: Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code. Partly because I’m trying to increase my reading speed for the degree and thought a proven page-turner would help (I zoomed through 300 pages of it today), but also because the English course has a module on the whole nature of reading, and I thought it might help to get my own opinion on the biggest selling novel of the past 12 years, rather than just join in with the literary consensus that it’s badly-written dross.

I was hoping it would turn out to be unabashed trashy pleasure, if only to not side with the literary sneerers, but I came away yearning for two crucial elements: charm and fun. The Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie books are equally non-literary, but they have heaps of charming characters and deeply enjoyable puzzles to solve. The Da Vinci Code is curiously unsatisfying. It’s not that awful – Brown flatters the reader with lots of short chapters ending in cliff hangers, and there’s a few impressive plot twists and intriguing theories – but the hero Robert Langford is no Poirot or Holmes or Bond. He’s just no fun.

As for other current bestsellers, I’m aware Lee Child’s thrillers have a Bond-style hero – Jack Reacher – that readers want to be, or be with, or be in bed with. That makes sense. Brown’s Langford, on the other hand, is barely there as a character. Someone who cracks cyphers shouldn’t be a cypher.

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Not Butch Enough For Twain

Friday: I pop into Gay’s The Word bookshop on Marchmont Street. Not only is it still going after Borders and Books Etc have toppled (and going for some decades now), but there’s a healthy amount of customers inside browsing away.

Despite owning a Kindle – because I own a Kindle – I still love to purchase nicely-designed paper books to vary my reading life. Independent bookshops are obviously the place to do it. Today I pick up three books for a tenner: Truman Capote’s Children on Their Birthdays, Carson McCullers’s Wunderkind, and James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. The first two are from Penguin’s Mini Modern Classics range, 50 titles celebrating 50 years of their Modern Classics; very cute ultra-pocket-sized grey paperbacks at £3 each. The Baldwin edition is from the Penguin Great Loves range: A-sized pocket paperbacks with a little logo of two penguins about to snog. Perfect examples of the way paper publishing should be going: beautiful & compact and lighter than a Kindle, so even fans of e-books will be smitten. If Apple made paperbacks, this is what they’d look like.

A-sized paperbacks were what Penguin started with in the first place: those classic stripey covers in orange or purple from the 30s and 40s, the design available now on mugs and tea towels and pencil cases, but not for any new fiction. It’s the size I care about. The standard Penguin paperback size for new novels is like most UK paperbacks: B-format, a bit too big for pocket-sized.

Yet this seems to be a uniquely British taste. At the branch of Foyles in St Pancras, they have a range of French language bestsellers, including your Dan Browns and Stieg Larssons. But they’re all A-sized pocket paperbacks. So why do British readers like their paperbacks to be bigger than the French?

I’m guessing it’s a kind of snobbery. The A-format is looked down upon as more trashy (and wrongly so, to my mind). It seems reserved purely for mass-market genre titles, eg those Terry Pratchett paperbacks with the cartoony covers. Or quality reissues of much, much older material, like the Penguin Great Loves, Great Ideas and Mini Modern Classics. Literary and new and on paper cannot be portable, apparently. They tend to be either C-sized paperbacks (even bigger) or cumbersome hardbacks. The newly published Mark Twain autobiography is a hardback of wrist-snapping height and breadth. I’m keen to read it, but I’m not butch enough to lift it up in the shop. Thankfully, there’s a Kindle version. So that’s one point scored for e-books right there: they’re perfect for bigger books.

This also shows up the increasingly anachronistic practise of ‘two tier’ publishing in the UK: a hardback first, then a B-format paperback edition a year later. I’ve read an interesting article suggesting that Radiohead’s album ‘business model’ (I do hate that phrase) should make publishers sit up and take notice. The band releases albums as cheap digital MP3 versions alongside more expensive boxed CD and double vinyl formats. So the collector’s urge to own something pretty on their shelves is sated separately from the basic urge to consume the art itself, and (crucially) at the same time. E-books, thankfully, are now being released alongside the hardbacks, so that’s what weak-wristed portability fans like myself go for. But this leaves booksellers missing out. Bookshops can’t sell e-books, but they can sell paperbacks. And I like the paper experience too, if it’s light and compact. Not just me, either: I-Phones and the success of Penguin’s aforementioned reissue ranges are proof that an awful lot of people want things to be small & cute, whether paper or digital.

So maybe this era of e-books and bookshops struggling to survive will force paperbacks to come out at the same time as hardbacks AND be small & pretty. In which case, speed the day.

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The Cautious Curiosity

I receive an email from someone who says they’re a literary agent, mentioning the words ‘book deal’. And suddenly the world gains new colours.

Hopes at ground level, of course. But it has galvanised me into author-shaped action, making me dig out the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, scribble ideas, and generally Take An Interest In Life again. As opposed to just being interested in sleeping. And sleeping again. And sleeping some more.


Just when I’m in the mood to write, it’s getting on for time to go to the night shift. I’ve promised a short story for someone’s collection. It’s due on Monday. Have it all worked out, am terribly pleased with the idea, and want to write it now. But it’s  time to go to work. And although I have taken tomorrow night off, it’s in order to DJ at someone I don’t know’s wedding. Still, presumably that won’t go on all night. I shall just have to steal moments with my notebook wherever I can get them.

If you have the nerve to call yourself a writer, you’re meant to learn from experiences of being thrown in amongst strangers. Observe, note their conversation and so on. Except I’m hardly the fly-on-the-wall type. Too often, I AM the subject of conversation. ‘Hey, look at him! What’s he writing? Look at his hair! Oy, mate, are you gay?’ And so on. So much for eavesdropping. My ‘Overheard By Dickon Edwards’ book would be filled entirely with comments about me.


Boys with bikes in King’s Cross the other evening. Shouting at me from the other side of the street.

‘Oy, blondie!’

I keep walking, and don’t look over.

‘OY, blondie. Blondie. Hey, Prince Charles!’

(Prince Charles…!)

That makes me look up. They grin, and put their thumbs up.

I grin back and nod in what I hope looks like ‘Yes, I do look funny, don’t I. Heigh ho!’ Without sarcasm, though. It’s hard work.

Walking in the street is improv class. You pretty much have to cast yourself in the role of a person walking in the street. No one ever tells you this.

Because my appearance isn’t particularly outre compared to the proper human peacocks of Camden and Shoreditch, I’m convinced part of My Problem is in the way I carry myself as much as my clothes and hair. Or in the way I don’t carry myself. I’ve never quite managed to convincingly play Bloke Walking In The Street. Or even – crucially – Arty Bloke Walking In The Street. Neither fish nor fop.

Sunday morning. Sitting in Waterloo Station Starbucks, still recovering from the queasy swaying of the overnight ferry from Guernsey. The Japanese girl working behind the counter is playing her own mix CD in the shop. Entirely 1980s UK indie. New Order’s Age of Consent. OMD. Echo & The Bunnymen. The Cure (it’s always The Cure – they should get a Queen’s Export award). And best of all – some Durutti Column. On a Sunday morning in Starbucks.

I’m quietly enjoying the music, reading ‘Sark: As I Found It’ by a rather eccentric character called Captain Ernest Platt, published 1935. Can’t decide whether he’s real or a pastiche, a joke. Googling him later reveals he was both: a British Fascist. Common experience when reading old books, of course. So much latterday forgiveness has to be factored in. Even Mervyn Peake’s 1950s ‘Mr Pye’ refers to a burning match looking like ‘a hanged negro’.

Just then, there’s a knock at the plate glass window. A couple of men I don’t know, pointing at me, laughing, before moving on down the street.

This ability – or curse – for attracting attention. No, not attention, curiosity. It has to be worth something in the cut-and-thrust world of marketing new authors. Has to help. I’m hoping to find out.

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